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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter argues “it’s more important to focus on the vote share each candidate is getting than it is to obsess about the margin that separates the two candidates.” It’s a good point for campaign-watchers. But Walter also shares some cogent insights about two marquee senate races in making her point: “I was reminded of how important it is to keep this “vote share vs. the margin” framing in mind as I watched political Twitter react to two recent polls taken in the battleground states of Georgia and Pennsylvania….The headline of the Georgia poll, conducted by Eastern Carolina University, was that GOP Gov. Kemp was leading Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams by 5-points but that the Senate race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP nominee Herschel Walker was tied. Looking at the race through that framing, you would think that Warnock is getting a higher percentage of the vote than Abrams; after all, she’s losing, but he’s still in the game. However, Abrams and Warnock are getting similar support; Abrams was at 45 percent, and Warnock at 46 percent of the vote. In other words, the ‘margin’ isn’t telling us the full story….What is important (and impressive) is that both Democrats are outperforming President Joe Biden’s dismal job approval ratings by seven to eight points. However, to win in the fall, they need to win over even more of those Biden-disapprovers….the cross-tabs of the ECU poll show that Warnock is getting almost all of the voters (94 percent) who approve of Biden. Walker, however, is only getting 81 percent of those who disapprove of Biden. It’s easier to convince a voter who is unhappy with the president (and the current state of the country) to vote to change horses than it is to try to convince that voter that change is the bigger risk….To be sure, Walker has a lot of political baggage that Warnock and Democrats will use to paint the former UGA football star as ‘risky change.’ But, given 40-year high levels of inflation and increased talk of a “Bear Market” and a looming recession, staying the course is likely to look like the riskier choice for many voters.”

As regards the PA senate race, Walter writes, “Now take a look at Pennsylvania. The top-line takeaway from the USA Today/Suffolk poll: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is leading GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz, by 9 points. On its face, that is great news for Democrats. Like his Democratic colleagues in Georgia, Fetterman is ‘outperforming’ President Biden’s job approval rating by a significant margin (7 points). But, look under the hood and see the challenges ahead for Fetterman in turning his 46 percent vote share to 50 percent. For one, Fetterman has consolidated the Democratic vote (82 percent of Democrats are supporting the Lt. Gov). In other words, he already has support from the people inclined to support him in the first place. But Oz, who squeaked through a contentious primary, is getting just 76 percent of the GOP vote. How does Oz unify the base to support him? Well, he makes the race a referendum on Biden. Or, more specifically, makes it about being a check on Biden. When asked if they wanted their vote to “support the direction President Biden is leading the country” or to “change the direction President Biden is leading the nation,” 50 percent of respondents — including 87 percent of Republicans — chose “change.” Independent voters are also more open to the “change” message; 49 percent of independents picked change to just 14 percent who said they wanted to stay the course….Fetterman, unlike Warnock, doesn’t have the baggage of incumbency. That, plus the fact that the 6-foot-8 guy with tattoos and a goatee and doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter politician, gives him credibility to run as an ‘outsider.’ A recent Fetterman TV ad called the Lt. Governor someone who has “looked different and been different his entire life..Now, the big guy is running for Senate to take on Washington.” And, like Walker, Dr. Oz is a first-time candidate whom Democrats can label as a risky choice. But, Fetterman’s ability to win will depend on convincing enough voters who want to see “a change in direction from the way Biden is leading the country” that Fetterman’s independence is more than just cosmetic. Republicans, of course, are working hard to tie Fetterman to the national Democratic brand. A recent attack ad by the NRSC charges that “Fetterman admits he will always vote with Democrats. In this economy, that’s the last thing we need.”

Luck is often a significant factor in election years, and it can be argued that Democrats have not gotten many breaks in 2022, particularly in light of the fallout from Covid. But Democrats have gotten one major break, in the form of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bad judgement. As E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains in his Washington Post column, “In a perverse way, the country owes a debt to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He made this refreshing presentation possible. In an astonishingly foolish decision, McCarthy withdrew all his appointees to the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected two of his five nominees. She refused to seat Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) because they actively spread disinformation about 2020 — and because Jordan was closely involved in Trump’s efforts to challenge the election….In defending Pelosi’s decision at the time, Rep Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) turned out to be prophetic. “The speaker is making clear we’re going to have a serious comprehensive investigation,” Raskin said. “This will not be just another run-of-the-mill, partisan food fight.” It wasn’t, thanks to the exclusion of Trump’s bomb-throwing apologists….It’s often forgotten that Pelosi approved McCarthy’s other GOP picks: Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy Nehls of Texas. None of them could be characterized as liberals, and Nehls had joined Banks and Jordan in objecting to the certification of the 2020 election….McCarthy thought that by walking away entirely, he would be able to discredit the work of the committee as “partisan.”….Bad call. With none of his allies there to throw sand into the gears, the committee — which still included two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — was able to organize a seamless presentation. Cheney has played a star role, and mostly Republican witnesses are telling the story….a normal congressional hearing, with full participation from members picked by the pro-Trump House GOP leaders, could never be as informative, deliberate or free from distractions as the Jan. 6 presentation has been.” If Republicans do win a House majority in November, Dems could do worse than having McCathy calling the shots for his party’s House strategy.

McCarthy’s blundering notwithstanding, Nathan J. Robinson makes a case at Current Affairs that too much focus on January 6th 2021 right now is a mistake: “I really struggle to find words to describe how stupid and suicidal this strategy is. Republicans are about to overturn abortion rights, with the Supreme Court getting rid of a fundamental constitutional protection. We have just seen children massacred by the score because Republicans take the despicable position that massacres are an acceptable price to pay for the right of teenagers to own weapons of war. Gun violence and the stripping of abortion rights affect people directly. The public doesn’t want Roe v. Wade overturned and doesn’t want weapons of war on the street. Why not hold primetime hearings on gun violence? If you’re going to hire a TV executive and organize watch parties, why not try to show the country the human consequences of Republican policies, with testimony from victims’ families? But on abortion, for example, Congressional Democrats have declined to take the kind of aggressive stand necessary to meaningfully affect the issue. Politico reports that “state-level Democratic officials and abortion-rights advocates are discouraged by how little their allies in Congress and the White House have done since a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade became public.” Nancy Pelosi even (appallingly) helped an anti-abortion Democratic congressman beat his progressive challenger. (He is currently ahead by under 200 votes, meaning that Pelosi almost certainly made the difference.) When Democrats in Congress do nothing about the issues that matter to voters, why should voters turn out for them?….Democrats are going to lose in November not because it was inevitable, but because they have made it very clear that they care more about Jan. 6 than the bread-and-butter issues that Americans are practically begging the party to show they care about….If Democrats want to win, the solution is to take actions that help people, such as forgiving their student debt, giving them a child allowance, lowering rather than raising their Medicare costs, and keeping their children safe from assault weapons. Then you’ll have a “message” to run on, and you won’t have to hire TV executives to “refocus” voters on an issue they clearly don’t care about.”

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. sally bould on

    The abortion rights group is not looking at the data carefully. A majority of US voters do not support abortion on demand. A majority do support abortion on demand during the first trimester. In order to protect women who are raped, whose health is at risk, etc. efforts should be made to pass the kind of legislation that has a clear majority behind it.

  2. James Shelton on

    And the 4th big issue for Dems is economic populism, and the way certain greedy super rich and corporations are sticking it to hard working americans, in more ways than one. All 4 can be framed as against extremist MAGA Republicans.

  3. pjcamp on

    Nathan Robinson makes a bad case.

    Not to say that abortion and mass shootings are not serious issues. They are. But overthrowing democracy itself does away with all constitutional rights and substitutes raw power in their place.

    I don’t think overturning Roe v Wade is a bigger problem than a civil war.


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